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Time has come for proper scrutiny of vice-chancellors' pay says UCU

23 August 2017

Vice-chancellors' pay must be subject to proper scrutiny, UCU said today. The union said that university heads had hidden behind their secretive remuneration committees for too long and the time had come for proper scrutiny of the massive inflation-busting pay rises enjoyed by some.

In 2015/16 three-quarters of universities refused to provide unredacted minutes of their remuneration committees meetings when asked by UCU through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. See page 50.

Previous research by the union revealed that over two-thirds (71%) of vice-chancellors who responded to union's FOI are either members of the university's remuneration committee or can attend (P30). Although the true figure is likely to be higher as some refused to even answer the question.

A total of 13 institutions* refused to provide any details of the vice-chancellor's pay and perks in response to the request from the union in 2015/16. Some institutions, such as the University of Bolton, failed to respond for a second successive year.

Recent critic of senior pay in universities, Lord Adonis, this morning accused universities of a "potentially illegal cover-up" on senior pay. University vice-chancellors have enjoyed huge pay rises in recent years. The average pay (excluding pensions) for vice-chancellors in 2005/06 was £165,105. In the past decade it increased by 56.2% to £257,904 in 2015/16 (the most recent figures available).

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'For too long vice-chancellors have hidden behind the shadowy remuneration committee when it comes to their pay. However, in the majority of cases, the vice-chancellor sits on that committee and the university refuses to issue minutes of the meeting.

'Students and their families are spending more than ever to fund their studies and universities should be fully transparent about how and why they are spending that money. It is time to lift the lid on the secretive world of university remuneration committees.'

Full details of UCU's work on vice-chancellors' pay (and photos of redacted remuneration committee minutes) can be found here.

* Eight institutions failed to respond to UCU's FoI request:

  • University of Bolton (also failed to respond last year)
  • University of Coventry (used an exemption last year to avoid answering any questions)
  • University of Cranfield
  • Edge Hill University (also failed to respond last year)
  • University of Roehampton
  • Rose Bruford College (also failed to respond last year)
  • University of Southampton (also failed to respond last year)
  • Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance 

Five institutions used exemptions to avoid answering all questions:

  • Anglia Ruskin (failed to respond at all last year)
  • Birmingham City University
  • University of Hull
  • London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • University of St Andrews 
Last updated: 25 August 2017